The popular History drama series Vikings returns this Wednesday with a two-hour season premiere to open its fifth season, which is welcome news in the WWE locker room.
“Both Roman Reigns and Charlotte Flair have told me this is their favorite show,” said Adam Copeland, who is WWE Hall of Famer Edge and also plays KjetillFlatnose in Vikings. “Vikings is a very physical, tough show. If you see battle scenes, it’s us doing it. There are so many similar physical elements to WWE.”
Vikings chronicles the world of the trials and tribulations of the mighty Norsemen during medieval times. Copeland promised that WWE fans more familiar with the Horsemen than the Norsemen will still enjoy the show.
“It’s similar in terms of the physicality,” said Copeland. “WWE fans are also fiercely loyal. If we as wrestlers try other things, they come with us. It speaks to wrestling as a whole when we can do other projects, and it’s almost like it validates the wrestling fans, like, ‘See, I knew they could do this.’”
Copeland’s character debuts in the fifth episode, but the premiere begins to touch on his storyline.
“From a backstage perspective, one of the things I always tried to do in wrestling was maintain that I was Adam,” said Copeland. “Edge was a character. There are elements of myself in every character I do, just because you take from your real life experiences and sprinkle those into your character.
“Kjetill is much closer to how I am, whereas Edge was what I always pictured of when a rock star met a wrestler and merged. Edge was part of my fascination with KISS and Cheap Trick and Queen, mixed with wrestling. Flatnose is closer to aspiring to what I have in real life.”
Copeland won every title imaginable in WWE, including 11 different runs as world champion. He is also a 12-time tag champ, teaming with Christian during seven of those reigns. The two have remained close for over three decades, and continue to host E&C’s Pod of Awesomeness together every Friday. Copeland was asked if his Vikings character, KjetillFlatnose, would also have been friends with Christian.
“No,” said Copeland. “I’m pretty sure Flatnose would just hack Christian to death with an axe.”
Although Vince McMahon is not part of the Vikings cast, Copeland explained that the WWE CEO prepared him for life after wrestling.
“WWE is entertainment boot camp,” said Copeland. “It prepares you for pretty much anything you want to try in entertainment.
“WWE is live and you have a live microphone with time to fill. There are no real time cues, you have eight cameras on you, and you have to keep track of which camera is hot while still interacting with the audience. If you flub a line or lose track of what you’re saying, the crowd is going to jump on you quickly. It’s amazing training, and Vince is the head of that training.”
Copeland noted that he has yet to encounter a director as tough as McMahon during his acting career. McMahon’s passion, Copeland explained, is in his vision and his unremitting desire to have his talent work as hard as he was willing to work toward his vision.
“There are not many with Vince’s work ethic, and I think what that does is breeds it in a lot of his performers, especially the ones that make it to the top,” explained Copeland. “If it isn’t already in you, it will be taught to you by Vince, whose go-to was usually to push, not praise, but that was OK with me.”
McMahon and the Canadian-born Copeland shared a close relationship during their time together in WWE, and still keep in touch.
“I’ll still call or text Vince, and it’s not about bad things or complaints or gripes,” said Copeland. “When I got dual-citizenship, I called him thanked him for the opportunities he afforded me in his company. I don’t know how often he hears that.”
Copeland also explained that the only way anyone can become a top performer in the wrestling industry is by having a relationship with McMahon.
“That’s not politicking, that’s getting to know each other and allowing him to know what type of person he is going to invest this massive machine in,” said Copeland. “How can he do that unless he has some sense of who you are as a person, and not just as a performer?
“It happened organically with us. When I had points I felt very strongly on, I went to him. In doing it, he began to see that I would stand up for what I believed strongly in, and that I would admit when I was wrong. I didn’t look for a pat on the back when I was right, either. He also knew how much I cared for that industry.”
Copeland admitted that wrestling transformed him into a perfectionist, but acting is an entirely different domain, especially with the multiple takes when filming a drama series.
“I loved that wrestling was live,” said Copeland. “You knew immediately whether it worked. The flip side of that in acting is that there are multiple takes to try multiple things, especially when a director asks you to play a scene in a different way. That’s an amazing process that you don’t have the chance to do in wrestling. Wrestling and acting are in the same tree, but on different branches. In wrestling, I was a perfectionist. I have more forgiveness for myself in acting, and it’s because we have multiple takes.”
The Vikings series also allows Copeland the opportunity to expand his acting portfolio.
“I auditioned and read for the show, I had the right look for it, and a week later I was in Ireland for filming,” said Copeland. “All the pieces fell into place at the right time, and there are a lot of unique challenges I’ve never faced in this profession with Vikings. I’ve never done historical drama with accents, and there are other challenges I have yet to tackle, and that’s one of the reasons I wanted to do this show. I knew it would be a massive challenge. I’m hungry to tackle new challenges.”
Copeland invited wrestling fans to watch Vikings, and promised some twists and turns – perhaps even a heel turn – from his character on the show.
“I really enjoyed building this character, and we built it as we went,” he said. “It’s this simmering, slow storytelling, and it won’t be the initial direction that my fan base thinks it will be. It’s a very cool progression to watch where Flatnose starts, where he goes, and where he continues. It’s been a fun experience to peel the layers back on this character, which is what I did with Edge for all those years with new opponents and storylines. It leaves so many places to go with the character.”